Thursday, March 3, 2011

TIA - This is Africa

There is a saying in Africa – you say “TIA” - it means “This is Africa”. It is a phrase intended to supposedly help you adjust your expectations. Basically nothing works, and anything goes. Government is corrupt and if you’ve got monetary resources, you can swing the powers that be your way. It is a vicious cycle, so how does one help? Do you work to help fight against the conflict? Or do you join to help pick up the pieces of the aftermath – all the devastation that corruption has left in its wake?

I just got off the phone with a gentleman who is Nigerian born, yet came to Canada 37 years ago – at age 19. We were connected when I contacted his organization here in Edmonton. It was a conversation that left me WOWed! There is SO MUCH I just do not know.

Africa We Care is a group that is striving to empower women by creating opportunity. I was asked to consider the lack of gainful economic activity in Africa. Truly, I think most things in my house were made in China or perhaps India. Come to think of it, apart from ethnic soap stone carvings or other Ten Thousand Villages type wares, have I ever seen things in the stores with a little sticker claiming “Made in Africa”? Hmmm, I don’t think I ever have.

I have previously mentioned the irony regarding the richness of Africa, yet the economics don’t reflect this richness. Consider the following;

Africa has some of the world’s greatest natural resources, but no industry to process these resources. They are sent out of the country to be processed elsewhere. You’d think that doesn’t sound so bad, right? It really wouldn’t be, except that Africans receive no benefit to this export effort.

The government that should be in place to protect the people does quite the opposite. The highest offer will allow a particular big company to come in and take resources from the land. What it also takes is opportunity for local individuals to benefit in any way as these companies will bring their own workers. Individuals from China, India and other countries will come into Africa and work positions that should be available to local people. So, the government benefits, the big company benefits, the cheap foreign labour benefits, but the African people do not.

Consider chocolate! Yummy! West & Central Africa account for 70% of the world’s cocoa supply! While existing groups are working hard to ensure chocolate is not farmed & processed by child & forced adult laborers again, as with diamonds, it is very difficult to monitor & control. Governments may not always have their people’s interest at the forefront of their minds. Makes me wonder a bit more about the history of the chocolate I will so readily consume! I love European chocolate, but none of the cocoa was grown in Europe, although the packaging may say that is where it is from.

So, back to my conversation. The poverty continues and empowering people and giving them economic fortitude may just work its way to resolving part of the major root issue.

Talking to this gentleman, he suggested that part of the Congo’s struggles may be that it is a country that is just not governable. The rest of the world looks on and fishes from the troubled waters of the DRC. If the conflict were to be resolved, who would benefit? Not the African governments, not our own big wig industrial mega-factories, oh yeah, I guess it could benefit the locals…. Oh, but they’re so far away so why should we bother?


  1. Thank you for caring about Africa! My heart has been on that continent for ten years... and I have only been able to visit twice, for a total of 5 weeks... the situation in DRC has been tugging at my heart for many years. It is truly unbelievable how hard it is to live an American life without products exploited from this beautiful country. I pray for this land each time it comes to my mind.

  2. Oh... I forgot to mention why we should bother.... because they are children of God, brothers and sisters, parents, children, they are PEOPLE ...

  3. Well said Brittany! I'd love to hear where you were in Africa and what you were doing! That is still a distant dream for me.